Author: Rachel Roth
Genre: Fantasy Thriller
Year Published: 2022
“Nerdection Worth to read”
Undead Redhead is a captivating story that takes readers on a journey through time while they experience the stories of several different characters. It illustrates the different human experiences people have and questions what it means to be human at times.
Spoiler Free Plot
The Undead Redhead follows the stories of twin brothers Mark and Dillon Ward, their estranged father Allen, and his new wife Alicia, Delilah Leary, and Connor Harville. They all come together thanks to Ruby, the mysterious woman haunting Riverwade, Tennessee.
Mark and Dillon are desperately trying to survive while living with their drug-addicted and abusive mother, Fiona. Mark was released from a mental institution not long before the story began; he has schizophrenia and sees/hears many things that impact his daily life. Dillon is fiercely protective of his brother and does anything necessary to ensure he’s okay.
Mark is given an ancient Celtic amulet for Cernunnos, and reality begins to shift making him question what is real and what is in his mind.
Delilah and Connor are (sort of) friends both struggling with their family issues; Delilah’s mother abandoned her because her father is physically and verbally abusive, and Connor’s parents choose to ignore him and pretend to live a perfect life. The strange but beautiful Ruby has been rumored to live in the newly constructed mall in town, and strange things have been happening ever since she arrived. Delilah, her boyfriend, Connor, and their friend Tina all decide to visit late one night to find her.
Allen chose to abandon his family when Fiona’s mental health deteriorated to spare himself the pain of watching it all. He remarried Alicia and together they have a daughter named Abigail – but their family is far from happy, Allen is abusive to Alicia and neither parent wanted to have Abigail to begin with. Allen has been obsessed with monsters and cryptids ever since he was a child, so when he connects a string of mysterious circumstances in Riverwade back to Ruby, he takes his family to investigate.
All of the stories come together thanks to the druid or vampire Ruby. She’s been undead for centuries and makes it her prerogative to save children from the bad situations they’ve been born into.
My Take on Undead Redhead: The Girl in the Mall
Undead Redhead is an enthralling horror book that reminds me a lot of Stephen King’s bestseller It. The characters may not have all been likable, but the author does a great job explaining where they’re coming from and where they learned a lot of the behaviors they demonstrate in the book.
We read through Mark and Dillon’s story first, which feels natural as it seems like a catalyst for the events in the rest of the book. After Mark is gifted an ancient amulet for the deity Cernunnos – who is a real figure from Celtic religion known as a God of all things wild – he begins seeing Ruby for the first time. Mark is schizophrenic, and the representation of schizophrenia is very distorted in the media. However, the author does a particularly good job of illustrating how it is affecting Mark in his daily life without relying on media stereotypes for the illness. I thought that section was quite insightful in that respect.
Mark and Dillon’s relationship is so endearing. Dillon is always worried about protecting Mark and making sure he’s doing well. Everything that happens with them makes you feel for both of the characters, and you can sense the love they have for one another is strong.
Delilah’s story is difficult to handle, though it is an accurate representation of what someone in her shoes might go through. Her father is extremely abusive towards her, and she thinks that if she can make him proud, he might be kinder to her. After she sees Ruby for the first time at the mall with her friends Connor and Tina, she drags them back later that night with her boyfriend Roland (I won’t say what for to avoid spoilers).
The chapters of the book where the four are in the mall looking for Ruby were a hellscape and as I was reading it, I didn’t know what was real and what might be a hallucination – and still, after reading it I can’t stop thinking about it.
This story reads like a fever dream at times with detailed descriptions of nightmarish scenarios that you’re never really certain are happening or if it is a hallucination. Ruby is a force as a horror character and she’s morally gray enough to make you question who the real villains in the story are.
One of my favorite things about this book is the use of Celtic folklore and religion, though that is something I have been interested in for years. I wasn’t expecting it when I began reading, but it was a pleasant surprise.
The take on vampires and undead in this book is fresh, too. Vampire media has been overdone in so many ways, but Undead Redhead elevated it by providing a unique new take on how one becomes a vampire, or even what it means to be one.
Ruby is heavily tied into all of the character’s stories, but we are privy to one short segment of her life and how she came to be what she is. It was extremely interesting to read, and I would read an entire book about what happened there alone.
The writing in this book was very engrossing as well. The descriptions of some of the events, smells, feelings, etc. were very vivid and at times made the book extremely unsettling. That being said, this isn’t a book for the faint of heart. It is very dark, and a lot of traumatic things happen and are mentioned within it.
Overall, I’d give this book 4 – 4.5 stars. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone as long as they read trigger warnings first, and if another book were to be made continuing the story, I’d grab it in a heartbeat.
Content Trigger Warnings:
domestic violence, abuse, pedophilia, sexual assault, drug abuse, harm to animals, underage drinking, death, homophobic slurs
The recommended reading age for Undead Redhead is 18+ due to the mature nature
About the Author of Undead Redhead: The Girl in the Mall
Rachel Roth is an author and poet living in Southwest Florida and a graduate of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a Bachelor´s in English and a Certificate in Creative Writing. Rachel Roth has written for several anthologies and literary journals including 101 Proof Horror, Pandemic Unleashed and Darkness Wakes. The Undead Redhead: The Girl in the Mall is her debut novel.